Panel Paper: Modelling Pathways to Public Outcomes: Using Strategy Maps to Compare Cost-Effectiveness Across City Programmes

Friday, November 8, 2013 : 1:15 PM
Washington (Ritz Carlton)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Tony Bovaird, University of Birmingham and Richard Kenny, Birmingham City Council
This research draws upon the longstanding literature on cause-and-effect mapping to explore the pathways to outcomes in one major city council. The paper outlines key strengths and limitations of cause-and-effect mapping, drawing on the evolving literature from hierarchies of objectives (Ansoff, 1965), the ‘logical framework’ (‘logframe’ or ‘ logic model’) in international development studies (Rosenberg and Posner, 1979), the analytic hierarchy (Saaty, 1980), ‘programme theory’ (Bickman, 1990) ‘strategy maps’ (Kaplan and Norton, 2001; 2004), ‘policy maps’ based on cognitive mapping (Eden and Ackermann, 2003), ‘theory of change’ (Sullivan and Stewart, 2006),  ‘Outcome- (or Results)-based accountability’ (Friedman, 2007; NFER, 2010) and ‘systems maps’ (Mulgan, 2010).

It explores the process by which strategy maps have been developed for a wide range of programmes in Birmingham City Council in the UK, in order to the help decision makers in the City Council and its partner agencies to develop an understanding of the City’s collective investment patterns.  In particular, the model is intended:

  • to inform the understanding of the different partners in the city about the effects of their interventions;
  • to highlight the areas in which this understanding is contested or poorly evidenced, so further evidence can be produced;
  • to structure the debate about the likely impacts of different kinds of intervention on outcomes

Further ahead, the model will be extended from analysis of impacts of public spending to impacts of citizen self-organising and co-production activities on public outcomes in Birmingham.

The approach has modelled the key relationships and inter-dependencies between interventions, outputs, outcomes and inputs across the city using the best available evidence. It is a whole system approach that develops full cause-and-effect chains and, for the first time, quantifies them. The model is strongly outcome-focussed. By working backwards from outcomes it is intended to provide greater understanding of how those outcomes can be achieved, what alternative pathways might be more cost-effective and what is the best available evidence to demonstrate impact of current council and other public sector activities. The relationship between the main types of outcomes is being explored, with particular emphasis on finding the correlations between them. While this independency is a good thing in terms of public policy, as it means that many policy initiatives have effects on several outcomes at the same time, it presents a problem for modelling, as it means it is hard to distinguish clearly what is leading to what.

Cost avoidance, through earlier intervention that reduces future demand by preventing and overcoming problems, is a key focus. A further key driver is to shift systematically towards investing in productive economic activities, like building social capital that will help to reduce recurring social and administrative costs.  The main focus for detailed analysis to date has been on programmes to stimulate the demand side of the economy – concentrating on innovation, enterprise, city marketing, digital connectivity and transportation improvement, covering £312M worth of annual investment and over 200 pieces of research/evaluation and business cases which provide evidence on input-output-outcome relationships in these programmes.